Blog | Thursday, May 12, 2011

QD: News Every Day--Uninsured rack up $73 billion in unpaid hospital bills

Uninsured families can only afford to pay in full for 12% of most potential hospital stays, including those with higher income but no insurance, reports the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Hospital stays for which the uninsured cannot pay in full account for 95% of the total amount that hospitals bill the uninsured. Other studies have estimated that the uncompensated cost of care that the uninsured cannot pay has risen to $73 billion a year, a significant portion of which is shifted into higher costs for Americans with insurance and their employers, reports HHS.

Approximately 50 million Americans are uninsured, and most have no savings. The median financial assets for all uninsured families are just $20, the HHS said. Even among higher income families, half of families with income at 400% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), or $89,400 a year for a family of four in 2011, have financial assets below $4,100.

But every year, nearly 2 million uninsured Americans are hospitalized, and 58% of these hospital stays resulting in bills of more than $10,000. Even the top 10% of uninsured families with the most assets are estimated to be able to pay the full bill for only half of potential hospital stays.

Researchers and think-tankers disagreed on the impact that the uninsured have on the health care system, since the uninsured are being charged the full rate instead of an insurer-negotiated discount rate, and because the government picks up much of the tab for uninsured visits to hospitals.